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Light from Broken Lamps

My friend, Lim, came sauntering up to the house one afternoon carrying an old kerosene lantern. He often stopped by to chat in the late afternoon. “Brother Todd, could you help me fix my lantern?”

Of all the skills I had to acquire to thrive in a jungle village, fixing leaky kerosene lamps wasn’t one. Like most Westerners, I’d probably just go buy another rather than fix it. They are relatively cheap. On the other hand, I might learn something. I suspected that he knew how to fix it, just didn’t have the stuff.

“Sure, Lim. What’s the problem?” “It’s leaking right here (he said as he pointed to the seam along the base.” “Any idea how to sort it out? I painted it last time.” The verb “paint” is about as ambiguous in the trade language as it is in English. We can speak of painting something with oil, paint, or even medicine when speaking of treating a wound. I was trying to figure out what he was getting at. We walked into my little workshop and started looking around. He picked up a can of paint: oil-based paint that becomes gummy when it dries. Clever. I never would have that of that one.

Outside in the breeze we started brushing paint around the bottom of Lim’s oil lamp. He grinned at me. I suppose he’d had similar experiences when trying to teach his children lessons that seem so straightforward to an adult. We set the lamp aside to dry and took up the real work of the day, talking about what was going on around the village, in Lim’s life, and eternity.

I’ve often thought of Lim’s leaky lamp since then. When you only make a few hundred dollars a year, kerosene is an expensive commodity. How sad and stressful it is to watch it drip down the side of your lamp and spill onto the ground, especially with such an easy, if unorthodox, fix.

Missionaries, especially in the kinds of remote areas where many Bible translators work, can be isolated for months at a time. Spiritual nurture is rarely external. Maintenance of the inner life can be costly and precious. Stress mounts: sometimes cultural; sometimes emotional; sometimes interpersonal; as often as not physical (sickness). Whatever the cause, the lamp of life tends to spring leaks and the precious flow of Oil drips out the bottom instead of feeding the flame.

The servant of Jesus must pay attention to the condition of the vessel. Where are there leaks? How large? Can I plug them or do I need help? Where can I find help? The servant’s life must be filled with the life-giving flow on a regular basis, lest the light dwindle to mere shadow.

Following are a few Bible verses that may help fan the flame and give the servant an advantage.


I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” –Psalm 121:1-2, ESV

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” –Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer 0f faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”–James 4:13-16, ESV

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Close the Gap

Uria Village, Madang, Papua New Guinea – Rainy Season, late 1990’s.  It was a season of tragedy. Among other things, the wife of one of our dear friends died in childbirth. The hike to the village where she was to be buried was three hours’ hike away, across a couple of ridgelines, and I (Todd) was sick with what I thought was malaria. Angela would stay home in Uria with the kids and I would attend the gathering.

storm clouds gathering

Storm clouds were gathering as I prepared to leave with my Somau Garia neighbors. I stared at the dark clouds and into the dark jungle and prayed. The bush treks around Uria are stony and slick, narrow and uneven. About an hour into the hike, I was feeling nauseated and dizzy and became disheartened by what I saw ahead.   Before me was huge gap in the path—six feet wide and a hundred feet deep. It was beginning to rain. I stopped in my tracks and considered what to do. It was either turn around and add hours to the journey or take a leap of faith, as it were, and keep going.

Angela and I are in the process of resourcing the translation of the Somau Garia New Testament. We have been hiking this path for a few years now. We’ve just come around a corner and are staring at a gap in the path—just wide enough to be scary, just short enough to be doable.

Fortunately, we don’t travel alone. When I was hiking the path to the funeral, one of my friends leapt across ahead of me in order to “catch” me on the other side. In resourcing the translation of the Somau Garia New Testament, we need ministry partners who will either repair the path or leap across and “catch” us.

During the remainder of 2014, we are asking the Lord to close the gap between the current commitments that have been made toward resourcing the translation of the Somau Garia New Testament and what is still needed.

Would you consider being one of those God is calling to close the gap?

If you are interested in joining the prayer and provision team click here to join the provision team or click here to email us with your name and email address to join the prayer team.

Thank you for prayerfully considering your part in making the Word of God available in the Somau Garia language.

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Please Pray–April 29, 2014

Please Pray April 29 2014 Header

Imagine being stranded on a desert island in the middle of the south seas. You find two crates ashore. One contains three years’ worth of MRE’s (Meal-Ready to Eat: self-heating, preserved complete meals). The other crate contains only Bibles.

You have nothing to do but make your hut, build a signal fire, and wait for a rescue. You rip open an MRE, activate the little heater in it, and find some shade. You’ve never read the Bible before, though you’ve heard of it. You figure that it is good to simply start reading what appears to be the main text. Page 1. “In the beginning . . .”

The story grips you and you hang with it day after day, sipping coconuts, reading the Old Testament. Malachi ends the section marked “Old Testament.”

Do you think you’d have any idea that 1) the Lord would send a rescuer to his people? 2) that the rescuer would not be a political rescuer, but one who would rescue people from death itself? 3) that this rescuer would restore the relationship clearly broken between Adam and all his descendents and Jehovah?

If not, then check out this verse recorded by the prophet Isaiah:

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.  – Isaiah 25:7-8, ESV

The imagery used here reveals generosity, compassion, commitment, and ability to right our wrongs and restore to perfection what was broken by our sin and rebellion. He even goes so far as to get involved personally–swallowing up death. Death! What smothers all of mankind our Father is able to remove! Hallelujah! Furthermore, He has spoken to us by His Word and His Word is final. Death is removed, its sting no longer potent.

How fitting that God should turn our eyes to this passage in relation to missional prayer. In the Old Testament, God promised to swallow death up and wipe away every tear. Amen! In the New Testament, we see the fulfillment of that promise in Jesus, the Final Word. Notice:

Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. –Revelation 21:3-4, ESV

Please pray with us with this aspect of God’s character firmly in our spirits.

  • Ask God to open the eyes of the Somau Garia speakers who do not know him to the reality that He alone can take away their fear of death and the realm of the dead that so many fear.
  • Ask God to open the doors for the completion of the translation of the New Testament in the Somau Garia language. The Gospel According to Mark is in use, the rest of the NT remains to be translated.
  • Ask God to provide for our return to PNG in His time, in His power, for His purpose.
  • Thank God for people who are hard at work drafting and preparing further books for translation.
  • Thank God for mission partners who currently support this ministry.
  • Praise God for his compassion, for using his power to reconcile, heal, comfort, and establish his followers with life.

Many thanks to those of you who are moving with us into the trenches, standing in the gap, making intercession for a people whom God loves and desires to redeem.

Blessings!

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Prayer Update–April 22, 2014

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There is so much to sort out in the mind, heart, and spirit when considering the resurrection of Jesus. Without it our faith is futile. Without it we have no hope. Without it we are to be pitied above all men. There are other aspects of His resurrection that are less discussed generally. Try this one on for size:

for God gave us not a spirit of fear but of power and love and self control. (2 Timothy 1:7, ESV)

In the resurrection of Jesus:

  • we have been given the Spirit
  • we have been empowered
  • we have been equipped to love
  • we are able to control ourselves–living beyond our passions

Furthermore,

If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful. (2 Timothy 2:11-13, ESV)

What must we fear if we have died with him? We have victory over death through Jesus Christ: the sting of death is removed and is not the bitter pill it once was. We are no longer obligated to slavishly obey every whim of our bodies–whether that be lust or gluttony or laziness or gossip or fear or arrogance . . . We are free!

Why share these thoughts in a prayer update?

When I write the words “Pray With Us” I’m inviting you into an activity that marks you as dangerous to entities in heavenly places. The oft quoted passage is appropriate here:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God . . .  (Ephesians 6:12-13, ESV)

Believer, you must understand that Jesus has made a spectacle of these spiritual forces when He walked out of the grave. He rules at the right hand of Almighty God, riding the white horse to victory, treading out the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God. We are sent forth in the name, authority, and majesty of Jesus Christ not to kill and destroy and subdue, but to conquer evil in love, purity, and spiritual power.

When you pray in alignment with the Father’s heart, you are wrestling against echelons of evil, arrayed in the whole armor of God, marching to victory.

We together must pray, must call upon the name of the Lord, must leap into the fray in the name of Jesus Christ the Risen One and shake the gates of hell in Jesus’ name!

As you pray,

  • Thank God for imbuing us with the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome sin and death in Jesus’ name.
  • Thank God for His compassion and longsuffering patience with the nations; that He has provided a means for them to come into relationship with Him.
  • Thank God for calling us out of darkness into His wonderful light.

Pray specifically for Bible translation efforts in Papua New Guinea:

  • Pray that there will be unity across ethnic boundaries–that Christians of different people groups will work together in Jesus’ name and for his glory.
  • Pray that expatriate missionaries will exercise great wisdom and discernment in serving both Jesus and the peoples of Papua New Guinea–that God’s word will be made accessible to all.
  • Pray that the Father will protect and provide for the teams that are intensely involved in the Bible translation ministry.

Mount your white horses, take up the weapons of your warfare, and fearlessly bring the battle right to the gates of hell!

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The Time is Now . . .

When I (Todd) was in Papua New Guinea last September, I spent time with people for whom God has given me a deep love, connection, and calling. He has inscribed them on the pages of my heart in a spiritual ink that will not fade with time and cannot be erased by the distractions or worries of life. As often as I’ve been tempted to turn away from this calling, God brings them to me in dreams, in reading, in off-hand comments made by people who are unwittingly used by God to remind me of this people made before time for God’s glory.

Getting the Word Out Somau Garia Style

Getting the Word Out Somau Garia Style

When I am weary and fearful, God calls me to strength and courage and continually draws me to the place of remembrance. I cannot escape it. He calls me to a mountainside in Papua New Guinea and he floods this theater of the mind with faces etched by the tropical sun, voices of children and grandmothers calling after them, with the musty smell of the jungle in rainy season, with the course feel of calloused hands hardened by day after day of back-breaking labor. He reminds me of the high stakes of this calling by bringing visions of shamans making sacrifice for the recently dead, of faces covered in hot tears streaming down their chins, fear-ridden wailing as another young person has given way to tuberculosis or murder or any number of tragedies. Oh God, do not delay . . . allow us to be with them soon . . .

Treasure . . .

Treasure . . .

Angela and I feel that the Holy Spirit has kicked it up a notch in returning us to Papua New Guinea to finish the translation of the Somau Garia New Testament. The urgency we feel is almost painful and we are noticing that every week we are having more dreams, more tears, more internal pressure to get there this year. The time is definitely now. There is no mistaking it.

We’ve prayed. We’ve talked strategy. We’re looking to God to move mountains to make this happen. In response to all this, we’re prayerfully laying an opportunity before you. We’re calling it the Spring Forward campaign and here’s the idea. We are at about 1/3 of the monthly pledges we need for Pioneer Bible Translators to allow us to return to Papua New Guinea. We are asking God to increase those pledges within the space of the next two months to 2/3 of monthly pledges needed to land us on the field. Here’s how you can participate in this campaign.

spring forward campaign week 1 graphic

First, talk to God about it. Ask Him what He would like you to do to make the completion of the translation of the Somau Garia New Testament possible. Second, if He leads you to join the provision team, visit the “Donate” page by clicking here and decide which kind of donation you’d like to set up. Third, drop us a line to let us know of your intention to support Pioneer Bible Translators so that we can add you to our email updates, prayer updates, etc.

Thank you for prayerfully considering God’s desires for your involvement in this ministry of getting the word made available to the Somau Garia people in their heart language.

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What’s a Life Worth To You?

The Spirit of God continues to draw our hearts across the Pacific to a mountain village on the side of Mount Somau. Please pray for our preparations and, if God be drawing you too, come alongside us as a financial partner . . . Visit the Donate Page to learn how.  Blessings, Friends!

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Day 36: Do You Have a Minute?

Knock. Knock. Knock. Do you have a minute? I know you are busy, I just have a few things to share with you. I’ll keep it short.

Getting the Word Out Somau Garia Style

Getting the Word Out Somau Garia Style

I’d like you to hear the voice of the Somau Garia translation team, represented in the comments of Ezekiel, the leader of the Somau Garia team in an interview I did with him in September 2013.

 

 

The first thing that you will notice is that many of you listening will not understand what he is saying to you. He is speaking the trade language of Papua New Guinea, Tok Pisin. Allow me to interpret for you:

I am Ezekiel, the leader of this Somau Garia translation program. I say “thank you” and express my happiness to our supporters, those who help us with resources in some small way, I say “thank you”. The invitation remains to those who may have a desire to support the Somau Garia program by supporting our supervisor [Todd Owen] and his family to return to work [with us]. The work of support that you do is important. I exalt the name of Father God and say “thank you.” I am Ezekiel Panawa making this talk.

Ezekiel is being very Melanesian in his greeting and plea, that is to say, he is downplaying the hugeness of the situation by being very indirect. He is amplifying the message by whispering.

This man took me under his tutelage in the late 1990’s when we first lived with the Somau Garia people and has been a good advisor and brother to me ever since. He has known hardship over the years and has given much of himself to see the Word of God become available in the heart language of his people.

Join Today!
I’d like to challenge you in two ways. First, if you are not part of our prayer team, click here to drop us an email to either sign up to join the team or to find out more about what that means. Second, if you are not currently financially contributing to Pioneer Bible Translators towards sending my family and I back to Papua New Guinea to work alongside men like Ezekiel, Stanley, Sirion, Wai, Kenny, et. al., in order to complete the translation of the Somau Garia New Testament, I ask that you prayerfully consider joining the provision team. To do so you may click here to visit our donate page.

Along with Ezekiel, I thank everyone who has been involved in praying for and/or financially supporting this ministry.

Blessings!

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Day 35: A Call to Prayer

December 26, 2013 Cape Coral, Florida —

Our youngest daughter hummed, sang, and listened to Christmas music from October until at least yesterday. Yesterday, the Christmas story was read, prayers were prayed, turkey eaten, presents opened, time shared with loved ones.

Today feels different. The Holy Spirit has been pressing on my soul for some time now to be really prepared for 2014 in a number of areas. I and Angela see both challenges and opportunities in the coming year and are vibrant with anticipation of what God has in store for these coming days. It is critical that as we prepare and anticipate God’s work in the days of 2014, that we call believers to pray with us. We need to live in the shadow of the Almighty. We need to call on his name. We need to experience ongoing answers to pray that all might behold His glory.

Would you pray with us in the coming days that:

  • We will recognize God’s leading and be able to know the difference between His plan and our desires (when they are not the same).
  • We will have God’s wisdom in planning and in executing the plan for developing ministry partnerships.
  • We will be equipped and ready in every way to depart for Papua New Guinea in July 2014.
  • Our Somau Garia co-workers will be protected from the attacks of the enemy as they continue to draft Acts, James, etc. in preparation for our return.
  • We will be fully submitted to Christ in all things as we proceed toward the goal of living and working, once again, in Papua New Guinea.
  • God will continue to grant grace and mercy as our family is dispersed to colleges, jobs, and callings.
  • God will grant us new financial partners even before the close of 2013.
  • God will raise up the prayer team He is designing for us.

Thank you for praying with us. Our heavenly Father is pleased beyond measure when we put our trust in Him in prayer.

What will our daughter be doing in the coming months? She will still be singing, humming, and being enthusiastic, but I think it will be praise songs from church, hymns played on the piano, and enthusiasm about making the trip across the big pond to Papua New Guinea. I hope, too, that of all her enthusiasms, she will also be praying.

Blessings, friends!

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Days 31 & 32: Pythons in the Path

Living in New Guinea has forever changed my walk.

Growing up, I suppose that the only time I really paid attention to how I (or anyone else) walked was when I was impressed with someone and wanted to imitate them. I remember in the early eighties when my brother returned from service in the Army. He had been taught to march properly, how to fight, how to be intimidating. He looked pretty spiffy in his dress uniform. I wanted him to teach me how to do push ups and PT and how to walk like a soldier. I even inherited a pair of his combat boots, which I wore to school. (This is the verbal equivalent of one of those old school pictures with over-sized glasses, acne, and big hair.)

He moved on and I grew up some. One summer I worked at the same factory as my Dad. At work Dad moved walked briskly, eyes ahead. No meandering. No loafing. It was different than at home, kind of inspiring. I packed a lunch like his, watched as he did his job; tried to be like him. He was a lot tougher than I. I lasted about a week and moved onto something really challenging: sacking groceries at a supermarket. Watching my Dad made its imprint all the same.

Then I was the Dad. I took my wife and two little boys to the second largest island in the world (next to Greenland). Gone were wide sidewalks and manicured paths through the woods I knew at state parks back home. We had arrived in the Land of the Unexpected. The paths here were steep, slick, narrow. Overgrowing them were vines, thorns, razor grass. Crawling over them were carpet pythons, scorpions, death adders, centipedes, tree pythons, and leaches. To walk these paths required a different gait, a different posture, fixing your eyes on your feet and the path, rather than the scenery all around. And that was only in the daytime.

When night fell, it was better just to not plan on walking away from central village areas. Occasionally it was necessary. In 2000, my friend Chris and I hiked throughout the length and breadth of two language areas, collecting word lists, writing observations, and trying to decide whether or not these folks were good candidates for placement of missionaries. What turned out to be the final day of the hike, we arose before sunrise and were hiking by six, eating and drinking on the trail. We were keen to get home that day and pushed hard, crossing three major mountain ridge lines and covering about 18 miles. In one day! (My one moment of glory.) We reached a village in the Somau Garia area about five in the afternoon, still needing to hike another three-and-a-half to four hours. Darkness fell.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

It’s hard to see snakes in the dark. Our Maglites put some light on the trail ahead. Better. We could now see movement in the brush. We could see wet, slippery spots in the trail. We could see the edges of the mountain. We could see the turn in the path. We could see all that we needed to see.

The Psalmist writes in 119:105:

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

The lamp of the Word is a needful thing in a darkened world. The dark is teeming with  creatures intent upon stopping us in our tracks.

As a believer, I have two great resources (among others) to combat the world, the flesh, and the devil. First, Jesus himself claimed (John 14:6):

I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except by me.

His is an illuminated path, smooth and straight.

Second, I have the Word of God, as quoted above.

Many Somau Garia walk a darkened path, without God and without hope. Their resources are few to none. In their heart language, they have the Gospel According to Mark. Praise the Lord that this important piece of Scripture is available to them. Yet, it exists without the context that people depend so much upon to understand the whole counsel of Scripture. How will they overcome the darkness? How will they know the Way? How will they see ahead?

God has seen fit to send Angela and I back to Papua New Guinea to finish the task of translating at least the New Testament in the Somau Garia language. This is one sure way to provide at least the possibility that they might come into a life transforming relationship with the Father. I’d like to invite you to join with us in this great adventure.

Giving Light
If you’d like to join us in prayer for the transformation of the Somau Garia people, click here to drop me an email informing me of your commitment to pray along with us. If you’d like to partner with Pioneer Bible Translators in sending us out, click here to discover how you can donate to this vital work.

I’d like to leave you with a final thought or two. How has your walk been changed by the Word of God lighting your life? Do you allow the word to be a lamp for your feet and light for your path? How has the Word changed your walk?

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Days 24 & 25: What Would You Risk to Find the Lost?

Lately I’ve been asking myself a simple, foundational question: “What does the New Testament say about what Jesus considers to be important?” Perhaps it could be stated differently: “What would Jesus risk (give) his life for?”

What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing . . . I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Luke 15: 3-7, ESV

Allow me to restate this in the most plain terms possible: “Jesus is willing to risk me to find the one lost sheep.” Let that sink in for a moment. Any of us who have been lost and found, who walk in the Way according to the Truth filled with the Life, belong soundly in the company of the ninety-nine.  The parable does not say that He leads the sheep to safe keeping, to a sheep pen where there is protection, food, and warmth. Jesus says that the good shepherd leaves the ninety-nine in the open country and goes to find the one. He risks at least some of the many to save the one.

The emphasis of Jesus’ parable is not on the leaving of the ninety-nine as much as it is firmly on the joy of finding the lost one. Even so, He risks the danger of leaving the ninety-nine in open country to rescue the one who is in immanent danger. The lost one is enormously important to Him.

If I align my heart with His, then I, too, must be willing to risk all to rescue the lost one from danger.

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. Mark 8:35, ESV

What would I risk to find the lost? What would you risk?

Looking ahead I have to consider Jesus’ words and count the cost. I have to daily be willing to risk the personal safety, agenda, and happiness of me and mine in order to complete the search-and-rescue mission Jesus has sent me on.

Our specific mission is to Papua New Guinea, to the Somau Garia people, to translate the New Testament into their heart language. Many Somau Garia will not know Him until they are able to come to know Him in the language that speaks to their heart.

Many of you have a call to these people, too, though it not be to physically be there, working alongside them in the day to day grind. Many of you have a call to risk yourselves in prayer, in providing resources to insure that each and every Somau Garia speaker has opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel. What would you risk to find the lost?

Rescue the Perishing!
Please consider partnering with Pioneer Bible Translators in sending our family out  on a search and rescue mission to the lost ones among the Somau Garia. You can partner in prayer by clicking here. Your prayers are vital to success in this God-given, high impact mission. You can partner in financial provision by clicking here, which will take you to our donate page.

Please join us in the battle to shake the gates of hell in this generation!